Briefly noted: The former Ingram Memorial Church on Capitol Hill
The striking Beaux Arts building at 10th Street and Massachusetts Avenue NE, now the Capitol Hill Seventh Day Adventist Church, has a unique heritage. In 1907, the Rev. Dr. John W. Frizzell (1863-1916), a Congregationalist minister preaching in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, decided to move to Washington, D.C., and form a congregation here. He convinced lumber baron and philanthropist Orrin Henry Ingram (1830-1918), Eau Claire’s wealthiest and most prominent resident, to fund the construction of a new church in memory of Ingram’s son Charles, who had passed away in 1906 at age 49. The result was this gleaming white Ingram Memorial Congregational Church, designed by local architect James H. Warner and dedicated in 1910.
|Vintage postcard photo of the church (author's collection).|
Shaped in the form of a Greek cross, the church was supposed to be built of stone but was ultimately finished in painted concrete. Ingram wanted it to be a place of recreation and refreshment for young people as well as a house of worship, and so it was fitted out with a swimming pool, bowling alleys, gymnasium, showers, and even a smoking room with pipe racks. President William Howard Taft participated enthusiastically in both the cornerstone laying ceremony and the dedication exercises. Pleased that this church of Puritan heritage would cater to the physical as well as spiritual needs of its community, he declared “there is nothing inconsistent between religion and duty and happiness and rational amusement.”
|A more recent photo of the church (photo by the author).|
By the 1960s, membership dwindled. In 1963, a church study considered moving to the suburbs, but the congregation decided to stick it out at their historic location and look for ways to better serve their community. Nevertheless, membership continued to decline, and in 1970 the congregation disbanded, selling the building to the Montello Avenue Baptist Church, which changed its name to the Montello Ingram Baptist Church. The Baptists stayed in the building until 1987, when the Capitol Hill Seventh Day Adventist Church took over.
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